Writing: Inspiration, Fear and Love

There’s a TED talk that I recently watched and fell in love with (crushed a bit on the speaker, fell in love with the topic and delivery) that concerns creativity and the typical fate of successful artists.  The speaker is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the highly successful novel, Eat, Pray, Love.

She made many points that resonated with me, but one in particular is pulling at my attention (pulling it away from a story I’m currently writing), and that is ‘fear’.  Not the fear of being mugged, or of the house burning down, but the kind of fears that tend to collect and follow those engaged in creative pursuits.  There are the better known fears of failure, of never being good enough at your craft, fear of throwing your all into something that you never succeed at.  I’ve known these fears and I can live with them, mostly.  Some fears are really panics that freeze me in my proverbial tracks.

I fear not being good enough for the stories that come to me.  Sometimes inspiration has bad timing and I worry that if I can’t get at least some snippets of it, it will be gone for ever.  That happened the other day, while I was driving home.  A song came to me and I sang it, as it was pouring through me from wherever these things come from.  I couldn’t write it down, so I tried repeating and repeating to see if I could memorize it.  Sometimes that method works, this time it didn’t.  So this fear is not just a boogie man I’m conjuring up to hide under my bed, there’s a basis to it.  Next time that happens maybe I’ll try the Tom Waits’ method described by Gilbert in the video, i.e., explain to the inspiration that you’re busy and that the inspiration can either wait for a better time or go invade someone else’s head.

I worry that if I don’t write these stories well enough, do them justice, celebrate the blessings of these inspirations by taking them as far as they should be taken, that I will lose them.  I am afraid that they will stop coming to me, that the characters who are so alive and real in my head, the landscapes of imagination overlapping experience will recede, fade, quiet and finally, abandon me.

Some stories are so big, so ambitious, so confident in themselves, that I am intimidated by them.  They swagger through my mind, so sure of themselves, telling me with no hesitation whatsoever that I am the one. They came to me, they didn’t land on someone else’s head, and they are sure I am the one to bring them to the world.  These are the ones that are most likely to cause me to panic, to freeze with writer’s block over the daunting task of taking them into me so that I can give them back out again.

I fear that I’m a fraud.  That, as true as these stories are to me, as real and as vital as they are, speaking clearly in my head as though they were standing here with me, that they will be deemed fake, that I will be accused of misrepresentation.  That readers will think that what I’m trying to express is not of me, but that I’ve taken it from someone else.  This is an especially loud fear when I’m writing characters and situations I haven’t specifically lived (at least in this life).

I have some fears about not measuring up to outside standards, certainly, but I’m know my harshest critic lives snugly inside my own head. I will sometimes stop myself, mid-paragraph, in a panic over how quickly the story is coming and the fear that I won’t get it all.  And mind you, this panic directly interrupts the flow I had where I was getting it all.  I am more than capable of being my own worse enemy.

At one point in the video, Gilbert asks “.. is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work they were put on this earth to do?”  I paused the video for a moment the first time I heard this, and asked myself , “Hey, self, were we put on this earth to write?”

The answer, very clearly, and without hesitation, was “Yes”.

And that helps to explain a bigger fear than any of the ones I’ve listed previously, a fear I was consumed by not many years ago, before I started this blog and began to put my writing out in front of people.  I feared not doing anything.  I feared knowing I was a writer, but not writing.  I was afraid that my fear of failure, or success, or criticism, would keep me from writing, which I’ve always felt was one of the major reasons I was taking this particular turn on the orb.

Will I be able to banish these fears and go traipsing merrily down the path to creative success any time soon?  The eight ball would surely return “Doubtful”.   And that’s OK, because I don’t think lack of fear is necessary, and I don’t think fear is necessarily a bad thing.  I know I am motivated by my fears.  Motivated to push through them, to push past them, to stay ahead of them.  I’ve got inspiration and  motivation enough to keep doing this writing thing that has its grip on me and its hungry teeth sunk deep.  Because this is something I was born to do and the prospect of not doing it strikes far more fear in me than the possibility of failure.  And, because I love it.  The high of creation is so good, so pure, so filling that every time I feel it, it’s like the first time ever.  When the phrasing comes out just right, when I can describe the scenes playing in my head somewhat close to the way they should be, when I can hear the character and the story clearly in the words I write, it’s like mental orgasm.

Fear and love, that’s what keeps me writing.  Sounds like hard-core D/s relationship, doesn’t it?  So am I being topped by my writing muse?  Oh hell yeah, and this boy does not mind subbing to Her, not one bit.

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